PHOTOS BY arjun narayen
STORY BY Marianne aubin le quere
I don’t remember the first time I met Arjun Narayen, but I remember the second. During my first month as a freshman, I connected with him “500 Days of Summer” style: striking up a conversation in an elevator. He greeted me as though we’d met before, and awkwardly I pretended to know who he was. Later that day, I discovered Arjun’s photography, and a year later, I was interviewing him for Folkmade.
At first glance, Arjun does not seem to have the sensibilities of an artist. He’s an Applied Math and Economics concentrator. But for Arjun, art does not exclude precision. He uses symmetry and framing to create photos that are impeccably ordered. His approach to photography is like that of a perfumer—using science to distill and edit his pieces until the results flatter the senses. He recalls an instance where he literally “had a ruler against [his] screen” to try and perfect the composition of the image.
Despite his technical tendencies, Arjun never forgets the value of storytelling. His recent venture into photo essaying documents the unseen lives of two rowers on the Brown Women’s Varsity Team. Arjun does not just show their élan on the water, but also the grittiness of cleaning the boats and the daily complaint of the Seekonk river.
His portraiture is similarly intimate. Arjun establishes a clear rapport with his subject and is able to literally look past a superficial exterior. This too, is the result of careful planning. Arjun goes into photoshoots with “a firm idea of what I want it to look like,” and then tries to bring his vision to life. He admits to a penchant for bright colours and an aversion to “photoshopping” his work, preferring to meticulously stage a piece rather than take away its essence later on. In this way, Arjun’s shots blend instinct and precision.
In photography, Arjun sees a path before him: “To go around the world with talented photographers, that’s the dream,” he says. Ideally, he wants to travel with the National Geographic, taking pictures that shock and rouse others.
There are two things you remember about Arjun Narayen—his smile, and his photography. I did not remember the first when I (re)met him freshman year, but I certainly cannot forget the second.